Monday, October 15, 2012

Transylvania: The Land of Count Dracula is a Multicultural Mishmosh

Today's post is about the music of the most well-known region in Romania, Transylvania.

Transylvania is Latin for "land beyond the forest." It is a place shrouded in mystery. Everyone recognizes the name and associates it with the infamous Count Dracula. Transylvania was immortalized in fiction by an Irish author, Bram Stoker, who had never set foot in Eastern Europe.

The character of Count Dracula was based on an actual person, Vlad Tepes, who claim to fame was putting his enemies to death while impaling them on stakes; it was a slow and tortuous death. He was certainly not a vampire, although, I'm sure, plenty of blood flowed from his victims when he impaled them. Vlad took most of his fury out on the Ottoman Turks, who ruled most of Eastern Europe for nearly 500 years.

The music of Transylvania is a mix of multicultural ethnic influences: Romanian, Hungarian, Saxon (German), and Roma (Gypsy). Most of the cities and towns in Transylvania have names in three different languages, Romanian, Hungarian, and German.

Here is a dance typical of the region.

The brass band music in the following video would not be out of place at a Bavarian beer fest. There was once a large German-speaking group living in Transylvania; most of them left after the Second World War. They had originally settled there nearly 1,000 years ago; today only a small fraction of them remain.

For more information on the German settlement of Transylvania, you may find this of interest:

The Balkans have always been a hotbed for conflict, and Romania was no exception. After the Second World War, the Communist government of Romania instituted a policy of assimilation. Ceaucescu especially had it in for the large Hungarian minority living in Transylvania (a territory which had once belonged to Hungary). He wasn't too fond of them and tried to force them to assimilate by discouraging the use of the Hungarian language and and treating them as second-class citizens; those who protested the regime were imprisoned or executed.

The Hungarian influence in Transylvanian folk music did not completely disappear, however.

The Roma (Gypsies) were another minority group that suffered discrimination, but they too, are part of the Transylvanian musical tapestry.

If you enjoyed this you may also like Folklore and Pop Culture Again: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Count Dracula......(or how a literary character became a pop culture icon)

Cultural cross-pollination: Bulgarian folk songs sung in Hungarian.

If you like Roma music A Romani Potpourri is for you.:

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